Medicinal Chemistry with Integrated Foundation Year BSc (Hons)

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Course starts: 14 September 2020Apply now

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This is a four-year version of our BSc (Hons) Medicinal Chemistry course with an integrated foundation year. Specialise in the design, synthesis and characterisation of small molecule drugs. Undertake an invaluable one year placement in industry. Begin an exciting career in pharmaceutics, biological research or clinical sciences.

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Medicinal chemistry covers concepts in the fields of chemistry, pharmacology, chemical synthesis and protein biochemistry. You will study how small molecules are designed, extracted, modified and synthesized to generate therapeutics. You will also explore how these molecules interact with their targets within the cell.

Why us?

  • Available as a sandwich course, where you can undertake a one year industrial placement
  • This unique course makes extensive use of the new advanced technology within our Sciences Complex
  • The University has over 100 years of expertise in teaching biomedical and pharmaceutical sciences
  • We are a University that is nationally recognised for supporting learners particularly from non-traditional backgrounds and many students come to us with no formal qualifications but with valuable work experience
  • 93.4% of our graduates are in employment, further study or training within six months of graduating, according to DLHE 2016/17 (based on full-time, first degree, home leavers)
  • Teaching staff are research-active and have close links to industry and research institutes working in molecular sciences

Course structure

Our teaching methods address different learning styles and provide a diverse learning experience. The course integrates traditional lecture and laboratory-based learning with active, experiential and enquiry-based learning.

You will be taught via laboratory practical work, tutorials, lectures, seminars, group work and e-learning. We also encourage you to develop independent study skills. 

This course shares a common first year with BSc (Hons) Biopharmaceutical Science and BSc (Hons) Medicinal Chemistry, which allows you to easily change course at the end of the first year should one of these routes appeal to you.

Foundation Year

The Integrated Foundation Year for Pharmaceutical Sciences includes five modules:

  • Essential Study Skills (20 credits)
  • Practical Numeracy Skills (20 credits)
  • Foundations of Pharmaceutical Sciences (40 credits)
  • Foundation Project (20 credits)
  • Chemistry for Pharmaceutical Science (20 credits)


Some modules have prerequisites. Read more about what this means in our Help and Advice article.

Year 1 (national level 4):

  • Introduction to Pharmaceutical and Biological Chemistry (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Cell Biology and Biochemistry (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Analytical Chemistry (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology (20 credits)
  • Research and Practical Skills in Biopharmaceutical Science (40 credits)


Year 2 (national level 5):

  • Further Research and Practical Skills in Biopharmaceutical Science (40 credits)
  • Organic Chemistry (20 credits)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Biotechnology (20 credits)
  • Further Analytical Science (20 credits)
  • Introduction to Medicinal Chemistry (20 credits)

Year 3

  • Optional one year placement in the Pharmaceutical Sciences industry


Final year (national level 6)

  • Advanced Chemistry (20 credits)
  • Advanced Biotechnology and Biochemistry (20 credits)
  • Advanced Medicinal Chemistry (20 credits)
  • Advanced Pharmacology (20 credits)
  • Research Project (40 credits)
  • These are equipped with wide-ranging facilities from proteomics to drug discovery. These include a MALDI-TOF mass spectrometer and nanoHPLC MALDI spotter both 2D-gel based proteomics and bacterial identification, a new BD Accuri bench top flow cytometer for cell based assays, and an imaging suite including facilities for light, confocal and electron microscopy. You will have access to the physiology laboratories equipped with specialist equipment and instrumentation to demonstrate a range of physiological mechanisms including cardiac, respiratory and autonomic mechanisms. We have a number of laboratories dedicated for final year projects where you will gain first-hand research experience.

    Bioscience laboratories
  • Our new analytical suite contains equipment which is industry-standard for modern clinical and pharmaceutical laboratories.

    Our state-of-the-art spectroscopic facility allows us to investigate the structures of new molecules and potential medicinal substances. We are equipped with Liquid Chromatography-Nuclear Magnetic Resonance and Mass Spectroscopy (LCNMR/MS) platforms; this is an exceptional facility for a university. We also have low and high resolution mass spectrometry, nuclear magnetic resonance and elemental analysis equipment.

    Our facilities allow you to gain hands-on experience of a wide range of analytical techniques such as atomic absorption spectroscopy and infra-red spectroscopy, which are of great importance in determining both ionic/metal content of pharmaceuticals and simple chemical structures. You will also gain experience of revolutionary protein and DNA separation techniques, as well as Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography and Gas Chromatography for separating unknown chemical mixtures.

    Facilities for chemistry
  • Our highly technical apparatus will help you gain a better understanding of the effects of drugs on specific receptors located throughout the human body and related physiological effects.

    In addition to equipment for standard pharmacopoeial tests, such as dissolution testing, friability and disintegration, we also have highly sophisticated test methods. These include rheometry, thermal analysis (differential scanning calorimetry and hot stage microscopy), tests for powder flow, laser diffraction, photon correlation spectroscopy, image analysis and laser confocal microscopy.

    We also have equipment for wet granulation, spray drying, capsule filling, tablet making, mixing inhalation, film coating and freeze drying.

    Facilities for pharmaceutics and pharmacology
  • We’ve got thousands of books and e-books on pharmaceutical and biomedical science, with many more titles available through the inter-library loan service. We also subscribe to a comprehensive range of print and electronic journals so you can access the most reliable and up-to-date academic and industry articles.
    Some of the most important sources for your studies include:

    • Embase: A complex database covering drug research, pharmacology, pharmaceutics, toxicology, clinical and experimental human medicine, health policy and management, public health, occupational health, environmental health, drug dependence and abuse, psychiatry, forensic medicine and biomedical engineering/instrumentation
    • PsycARTICLES: Includes information about the psychological aspects of medicine, psychiatry, nursing, sociology, pharmacology and physiology
    • PubMed: Contains life science journals, online books and abstracts that cover fields such as medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine and health care
    • Science Direct: Offers more than 2,000 full-text journals published by Elsevier
    • Web of Science: Covers a broad range of science areas
    Library Services - sciences
  • Map and directions


This course is based in the Sciences Complex at our City Campus, which boasts excellent laboratories and cutting-edge equipment thanks to multi-million pound investments.

Entry requirements

The Integrated Foundation Year is specially designed to support you where you have just missed the grades required for direct entry onto a three-year degree, or if you have relevant work experience and are now looking to broaden your subject knowledge but want more time to develop study skills before starting your degree.

Entry requirements are provided for guidance only and we may offer you an entrance interview which will help us determine your eligibility for your chosen degree. This enables us to consider making you an offer if you are perhaps a mature student who has been out of education for a period of time, or you have gained significant knowledge and skills through employment rather than traditional education.

Eligible entry qualifications:

1. Normally a minimum of three Level 2 qualifications (NVQ, GCSE or equivalent ), including Maths and English at grade C or above** and a minimum of 40 UCAS tariff points from Level 3 qualifications (e.g. A or AS Levels, BTEC certificates/diplomas, access courses or equivalent)
2. Demonstrable evidence of appropriate knowledge and skills acquired from at least three years of post-school work experience.

Find out how many points your qualifications are worth using the UCAS Tariff calculator.

If you are unsure of whether you think you might be suitable for the course, please contact us!

** If you have studied for a GCSE which has a numerical grade then you will need to achieve a grade 4 or above. Equivalent alternative qualifications are also accepted, such as Level 2 Key Skills in Communication and Application of Number. If you have not achieved a grade C in Maths and English we may be able to work with you to ensure that you are able to gain these in the first year of the course, depending on your experience.

Depending on availability of places and subject to interview, you may be able to apply to transfer to our MPharm Pharmacy course following successful completion of the foundation year of a Pharmaceutical Sciences Integrated Foundation Degree. You must aim to achieve 70% in the foundation year, and any offer will be subject to the discretion of the Pharmacy admissions tutor.

If English is not your first language, please see our English language requirements.

For more information about Integrated Foundation Year programmes, including more detailed module information, please see our Help and Advice articles.

Fees and finance

If you join us in September 2020, the foundation year will be £5,000.

For the following three years, the annual fee will be £9,250 but you will receive £1,250 cash-back in the first and final year of the full-undergraduate course.

In addition, you may receive free travel across the Tyne and Wear region and a University of Sunderland StudyPLUS Card loaded with additional offers up to the value of £200, plus a bundle of study skills books worth £80.

If you are a full-time UK student you may be eligible to receive financial support to cover your fee and maintenance loan for the full four years.

Please note, this course is not available to international students.

If you are not sure whether you qualify as a UK, EU or international student, find out more in our Help and Advice article.

Take a look at the Your Finances section to find out about the scholarships and bursaries that may be available to you.

Use our scholarships calculator to see what you may be entitled to.

Scholarships calculator

This information was correct at the time of publication.

City Campus by night


Medicinal chemists are employed in an increasingly wide range of roles in drug development and pharmaceutical companies. The typical salary for a graduate medicinal chemist is £23,000. This salary increases based upon postgraduate and industrial experience.

Companies that have employed our graduates include pharmaceutical multinationals such as GSK, Pfizer and AstraZeneca.


The employability of Sunderland graduates reflects our mix of academic rigour and practical skills. To enhance this mix, we encourage you to apply to undertake a one-year placement between your second and final year. 

Placements provide an invaluable opportunity to put your learning into practice and understand the context for your new knowledge. As part of the course you will also make several industry visits.

Transferable skills

This course gives you the opportunity to develop skills which you can use in a range of employment situations including:

Academic study skills: avoiding plagiarism, time management, reading, note taking, referencing, revision analysis, and scientific writing.

Practical skills: laboratory competency, experimental skills and techniques.

Transferable skills: numeracy, analytical, problem-solving, teamwork, communication, self-management and organisation, application of IT, consideration of ethical and safety requirements, critical thinking, personal development planning and reflection.


Meet the students

  • The very high standard of the laboratories and equipment was a real factor in choosing Sunderland.
    katy hirst course

    Katy Hirst

Meet the team

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